New York singer-songwriter Linda Sussman’s latest album, THESE WALLS, is a fully charged collection of eleven original tracks that crosses alt-folk and folk-blues and takes listeners on a journey of strength and grace. Whether singing for social justice or personal fulfillment, Sussman creates an inspiring musical landscape that occasionally dips into whimsy.
Sussman’s strong vocals and acoustic guitar agility mix well with her team of backing musicians: Mike Nugent (lead guitar and dobro)
Kevin Kelly (bass)
Richie Guerrero (percussion/drums)
Mark Mancini (piano)
Sean Murray (drums [title track])
Sussman notes that about half of the tracks were written in the early days of COVID-19 lockdown and reflect the world from within her walls while in isolation. The album was recorded from home studios across Long Island and mixed remotely during the 2020 lockdown in New York.
The album kicks off with the up-tempo, full-band title track, "These Walls," which asks how future generations will look back on this time ["These walls may talk / these walls may cry ... stories hidden within the cracks / what'll they tell us when we look back? ... "Water won't wash away my tears"]. Shawn Murray’s driving drumbeat, Sussman's acoustic rhythm guitar and Kevin Kelly's bass support exquisite solos from Mark Mancini on piano and Mike Nugent on electric guitar.
A soft-blues quartet creates an ethereal feel in "Eye of the Storm," in which Sussman pays tribute to front-line workers and observes our shared humanity and resilience during these difficult times ["Time’s movin' / movin' so slowly / world's racin' / for a cure / hearts pourin' / into each other / there's a front line / in the eye of the storm"]. Sussman steps out with an acoustic guitar lead, entwined with Mike Nugent's stunning electric guitar and Kevin Kelly's impressive bass lines, backed by Richie Guerrero on soft drums.
The mood shifts in "Catch Me If I Fall,” which is an uplifting and contemplative folk track that challenges us to follow our dreams. Sussman's acoustic fingerstyle guitar is elegantly complemented by organ (Mark Mancini), bass (Kevin Kelly) and electric guitar (Mike Nugent), a blend that delicately supports the song's lyrics. ["Circles are bound to break / when you lean against the lines / no matter the years it takes / to finally arrive ... Follow your dreams / stretched across the sky / each day a new star / holds us in dark and in light"]
"Tomorrow Blues" follows with a full-out honky-tonk blues sound and features Linda Sussman’s echoing harmonies as she laments the heartache of being stuck in yesterday's love gone wrong [“Blues walkin' in my sneakers / blues walkin' in my boots / blues walkin' all over me baby / I'm worn out waitin' for you / I got them tomorrow blues / hangin' around from yesterday / these blues have come and found me / bringin'
trouble where I lay"]. The quartet: Linda Sussman (acoustic guitar), Mike Nugent (electric guitar), Mark Mancini (piano) and Kevin Kelly (bass).
The album's two progressive-folk songs of social justice—"Join Hands" and "Sounds"—were released in advance as singles (Nov 1, 2020) and were immediately embraced by numerous folk radio hosts, including Bob Sherman of WFUV's Woody's Children. Sussman says she wrote "Join Hands" in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd as the streets were filling in protest against systemic racism. A Spanish flair infused by Mike Nugent's classical guitar lead, along with Richie Guerrero's hand drumming and percussion, fuse with acoustic guitar (Sussman) and bass (Kevin Kelly) to create a distinctly captivating sound. ["Join hands / with your sisters and your brothers / join hands / make a statement for those who can't / take a knee / to stand up and be free / join hands/ all across this land”]
In the folk-blues track “Shadows By My Side,” Sussman confronts the uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring [“How a thin line / casts shadows / by my side”]. Mike Nugent's dobro mastery delivers a Hawaiian sound, just the right accompaniment for this trio (with Linda Sussman on acoustic guitar and Kevin Kelly on bass).
Linda Sussman (acoustic slide guitar) and Mike Nugent (acoustic lead guitar) have some fun with "My Baby.” In this lively blues duo, Sussman lightheartedly explores issues of love and jealousy. ["My baby’s comin' back / my baby never once crossed those tracks / So I'll just keep movin' along / put on the kettle / forget this whole song!"]
Up-tempo contemporary folk sails across Sussman's "Cocoon" track, which conjures up the imagery of nightmares amid a yearning for safety ["Wrap me a cocoon in the middle of the night ... Let me curl up tight / under the warm moonlight / where stars are just stars / don't come alive "]. Sussman showcases her strong fingerstyle guitar, which is accompanied by Richie Guerrero on congas/percussion, Mike Nugent on lead acoustic guitar and Kevin Kelly on bass.
"Don't Give Up" is a folk-rock track (reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac) that reminds us of the fragility of relationships, which need to be nurtured in order to survive ["Love only grows when you let it ebb and flow / so much harder than we know ... Don't give up, we can work it through / love has a way of comin' back to you"]. The track is layered with vocal harmonies (Sussman's own), strong acoustic rhythm guitar (Sussman), rock'n'roll electric guitar (Mike Nugent), bass (Kevin Kelly) and drums (Richie Guerrero).
In “Mountain of Fire,” Sussman taps into a bluesy folk-rock style as she achingly delivers lyrics that are both full of hope and laden with exhaustion [“There’s a mountain of fire / in a sea of love / all over this place ... I'm not afraid of gettin' singed ... It's a long road to travel / it's a longer road to walk / it's a long road to
travel / the mountain's burnin' up”]. The trio of musicians are Linda Sussman (acoustic guitar), Mike Nugent (electric guitar) and Kevin Kelly (bass).
The album closes with the social-justice track "Sounds," in which Sussman calls out the pain of immigrant families torn apart at our borders at the hands of the Trump administration ["I hear sounds every night / as I lay me down to sleep / stories turning in my head / enough to make me weep ... Sounds / I hear sounds”]. (Sussman delivers the last verse in both Spanish and English.) The trio of musicians are Linda Sussman (acoustic guitar), Mike Nugent (electric guitar) and Kevin Kelly (bass).
Throughout THESE WALLS, Linda Sussman’s strong vocals and acoustic guitar agility are complemented by stellar musicians: Mike Nugent (lead guitar, dobro), Kevin Kelly (bass), Mark Mancini (piano, organ), Richie Guerrero (drums, congas, percussion) and Shawn Murray (drums). This is Linda Sussman’s third full-length album of originals, following PASS IT ON DOWN (2019) and EVERY ROAD (2018).
Co-produced by Linda Sussman, Mike Nugent and Kevin Kelly
Recorded in various locations on Long Island (NY)
Mixed by Kevin Kelly (The Workshoppe East)
Mastered by Mike Kalajian (Rogue Planet Mastering)